Letters | Feb 22, 2010
  • Australia Speaking
    Feb 22, 2010

    Net work Outlook echoes on the Sydney Morning Herald site

    Dear Mr Mehta, you’re reported this morning in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying that you like Australia a great deal, but that we have to see there is a problem and by denying it we won’t get anywhere (Do You Speak Australian?, Feb 8). I agree. Why then are you loose with facts? The truth is the three people charged with Ranjodh Singh’s murder are Indians. Your selective handling of facts will add to the problem most of us agree exists. Or do you think pouring fuel on the flames of bigots in both countries is the solution? People like me think you owe your Indian readers a more accurate report and Australians like me an apology.

    Tony Andrews, Warrawee, New South Wales

    Australia’s long been accused of racism, like back when laws were passed not to let aboriginal housemaids leave premises even to go home. Then there was Pauline Hanson, the politician who ran on anti-immigrant and anti-immigration policies. The then premier John Howard refused to censure her, saying instead that the pall had been lifted over political correctness. Hanson’s policies led to the tragic manner in which Afghan refugees were dealt with. Then there were the Lebanese who were attacked. That Indians would be next comes as no surprise.

    Elan, San Jose, US

    As an ethnic Indian who migrated here 10 years ago, I keep hearing about Australia being racist—the notion advanced being that all of it is. Can anybody point to a single piece of legislation or policy that is even remotely racist in modern Australia? Sure, there are a few misguided souls around here, but nothing even close to, say, Maharashtra’s legislation on the son-of-the-soil policy.

    Skyfish, Melbourne

    The Australian people are generally polite. However, institutional and inherent racism run deep. I consider myself reasonably well integrated in the society. But I recall, as we arrived at the Sydney airport, the customs person snatched the bag from my hand and stared at me angrily. On other occasions, salespeople ignore you when you ask for assistance.

    Viren Aggarwal, Sydney

    No, mate. Only a few idiots in Oz are racist. Don’t let them spoil it for the rest of us. One day I’ll tell you the story of how my daughter was seriously ill in Adelaide, and the only doctor I could get to make a house call on a Sunday night was Indian.

    Peter Hindmarsh, Sydney

    I’m a building tradesman and travel through suburban Melbourne each day installing showers and mirrors. There are always many other traders on site, and when we break for lunch, there is never any racial talk, mainly because there are so many different nationalities in trades these days. I would expect that racism would have its roots in the under-educated (like myself). I’m as Anglo as you can get, but I can’t see why people behave like this towards others. Don’t give up on Australia; most of us welcome your people and value their contribution to our society.

    Antony J. Dennis, on e-mail

    The vast majority of Australians have never heard of the Australia First party, they certainly don’t have any members of parliament, local council or anything else. It may be no more than the one guy quoted here. It’s slightly dubious journalistic standards to quote this guy extensively without even a mention from one of the major Australian political parties.

    Huw, Melbourne

    Van Than Rudd is an idiot, with more time on his hands than common sense. By dressing up in a kkk outfit, he has tried to dramatise a minority position with a cheap, low-brow stunt. No one here pays any attention to that twit. Having lived in two Asian countries and travelled in five, it is my belief that Australia is generally an open and welcoming society. We are far different in make-up today than even 20 years ago, with large numbers of European, African and Asian peoples now calling Australia home.

    Cyrus Allen, Melbourne

    Australians don’t hate Indians. If there is any anger towards them, it’s to do with the 90 per cent of foreign students who are here not to learn and take their skills home but to get a rubber stamp on their permanent residency (PR). I’ve seen first-hand people go to exams with cheat sheets. I’ve had students who say they’ve come for tutoring but who only want you to write their essays. I’ve seen students get credit for supposed qualifications when they’re actually quite incompetent. I’ve worked with incompetent Indian graduates who should never have been passed.

    Anonymous, Melbourne

    Melbourne has never really been a safe city. You refer to Prahran as being safe but it is full of poorer people from the northern suburbs out to create trouble from Friday to Sunday; going there at night is dangerous, regardless of who you are or where you are from! Sunshine, on the other hand, is a working-class suburb which Prahran used to be. It is, however, full of desperate heroin-addicted junkies; you should know better than to walk around here at night. A safer suburb than Prahran or Sunshine would be Burwood which also has Deakin University.

    Anthony, Melbourne

    What an absolute beat-up and complete misrepresentation of a story. As an immigrant myself, living with an Asian lodger in a very mixed-racial suburb in Sydney, life here is pretty darn good and the majority of people are not racist at all. Of course, there is racism in every society—India has its fair share—and it probably exists here too, although in 30 years I’ve never experienced it.

    D. Jarrett, Sydney

    Racism is born in the minds of people, and is not nation-specific. Persisting with a culture of blame and hate does not cure it. Generosity of spirit, a genuine interest in others and finding things that bind us rather than seeking out and amplifying our differences is the best way to approach this debate.

    Tamasin Ramsay, Melbourne

    Nowhere is perfect, and every nation is cursed with racist idiots. Your article, though, was uncalled-for and extremely biased. Australia is a wonderful place to live in, and its inhabitants (who’re from or descended from countries from all over) are as fair-minded a people you could hope to meet.

    G, Melbourne

    As a white Anglo-Saxon Australian, I’m actually quite offended by the allegations that all of us are racists. I have neighbours, friends and work colleagues who’re of Indian background and they, like me, can’t see the racism the Indian media is reporting.

    Geoff Martin, Sydney

    Racism/xenophobia is innate human behaviour under conditions of social and resource stress, regardless of ethnicity. Indians are as racist as Australians are as racist as Asians....

    Aquaman, Melbourne

    This is the most fair and balanced piece on racism in Australia. Unfortunately, it does not touch on the less obvious forms of racism and abuse non-white nationalities suffer when they enter our land. Australia IS racist, one need only review our government’s past AND current treatment of our aboriginal populations to know that racism is so well ingrained in the Australian psyche that we ourselves rarely recognise what’s obvious to others!

    Rea, Brisbane

    The attacks on Indians here are partly resentment and envy at Indian students who have a purpose and future. But a more obvious factor is triumphalism in sport. While Indians certainly rival us in fanaticism for cricket, there is an underlying sense here that our success in the field is to do with Anglo values: that we keep a steady head and play rationally, rather than the more emotional players as might seem in the Indian side. My hope is that Australia loses a series, particularly against India, so that we can question our Anglocentric worldview.

    Kevin Murray, Brunswick

    I moved to Australia with my parents in 1982, and have lived here all this time. I’ve never been racially abused or attacked in any way. I love India, the country of my birth, but I am ashamed of the way the Indian media, politicians and people are accusing Australia of racism. There are Indians who come here to run insurance scams, sexually assault Australian women, murder their own and then claim Australians are racist. Why doesn’t the Indian media investigate those coming here on fake visas to get PR status? Why doesn’t it investigate the rapes, scams, murders Indians commit here in Australia? All the media has done is to make life hard for the rest of us living in Australia in peace.

    Roshan, Melbourne

    What is the need for skilled Indians to go to Australia? There is no dearth of opportunities here. What is the use if you drive a fancy car and lead a high life in an alien country and have no one to be proud of you?

    Sudhir Saligrama, Bangalore

    Yes, the Aussie government made the biggest mistake by allowing these so-called “PR factory” colleges to set up shop. The Indian students come here with fraudulent documents, have little manners, talk too loud everywhere, refuse to learn Aussie culture or mingle with the locals, have no interest in studying, want to get PR asap and perpetuate the fraud. The Aussie government calls them “skilled migrants”? They would not get a job in India, let alone Australia.

    Karthik, Melbourne

    I notice some Indians have expressed shame due to the behaviour of the Indian media and a handful of Indian politicians on this, and the action of a few Indian criminals in Australia. You should not be ashamed but hold your heads high for the fact you have faith in Australia and its people.

    Craig, Adelaide

    Until recently, my perceptions of Indians and India have been shaped by positives, its democratic values, Buddhism, Gandhi etc. I’m also a bit of a military history buff, and in the Indian/Pakistan conflicts I’ve always seen the Indian side as being more balanced and less chauvinistically driven. These positive views were somewhat dented by the racism directed at Andrew Symonds by Indian crowds but the latest campaign of misinformation against Australia by Indian media has made me realise my overall positive views were unrealistic.

    Alan, Melbourne

    Although there is certainly an element of racism in Australia, it can’t be said to be our ‘dominant culture’. We do, as do most countries, have a small but very noisy contingent of belligerent, venom-filled hate-mongers, but please, do not tar all of Australia with one brush!

    Sarah Kinder, Ballarat

    Articles like this will only make the problem of racism in Australia worse. I’ve grown up with Indian students in all levels of my education, and have many Indian families living in the same street as me. Australia isn’t known for having a multicultural past, but it is learning to overthrow that—shown by how most of our racist right-wing parties are fringe groups. To combat attacks on Indians, the Victorian government needs to police crime-prone areas more and educate the public on multi-culturalism.

    J. Jerome, Melbourne

    Australia is a very racist country. We once had a Labor Party leader who said “no red-blooded Australian wants a chocolate Australia by the ’80s.” I recently read a book by a ‘leading intellectual’ in this country who proudly proclaimed that the White Australia policy finished with Gough Whitlam. The silly suggestion being that all he had to do was to say it was over and that was the end of it. Students travelling to this country should give Victoria a fairly wide berth. That is not to say the rest of the country is better, just that the Victorians have a history of racism. Particularly toward the Chinese. Our prime minister would attend the opening of an envelope if he could be photographed alongside Obama. He will speak to the Chinese in their own dialect and on the other end call the Chinese a security threat. It is the ultimate double standard.

    George Ikners, Sydney

    Australia First, One Nation and the Radical Socialist Party are marginalised groups, which in the eyes of most Australians are complete jokes. I have been in India twice on business during the past six months. I love your country and your people.

    Mark Balla, Melbourne

    I do not believe that Indians are hated, it’s only because there are too many criminals in the state of Victoria. How do I know that? My only daughter was murdered on May 17, 2007. By whom? By the Victorian police force, and up to this date the Victorian government with the police is trying to stop me from exposing them!

    Vagelis, Melbourne

    Until recently, my view of Indians in Australia was that they made a wonderful contribution to our country, with their colourful culture and gentle nature. That view has hardened of late however, and a turning point was seeing Indian students blocking intersections in Melbourne as a protest against perceived “racism”. Your magazine’s extreme headline has hardened my position even further. I’m tempted to say, “If you don’t like it here, go home”. And it disturbs me that I can be thinking like this.

    David Anderson, Perth

    What sensationalist rubbish you’ve printed! Why don’t you expose the real reason behind Australians’ resentment of Indians, namely that tens of thousands are gaming Australia’s immigration system by enrolling in dodgy courses like hospitality purely to access PR. If these so-called “students” really wanted an education, they wouldn’t be studying ‘cookery’.

    Grant, Sydney

    If there is racist intent, I’d expect Indians from all socio-economic backgrounds to be affected. It isn’t so. I’m sure there are quite a few suburbs in Mumbai, Delhi or other large Indian cities that are ‘no-go zones’ for those who look more affluent and are prone to opportunistic robbery or violence.

    David, Melbourne

    Thanks to the constant anti-Aussie reporting in the Indian media, Australians now see Indians as being ungrateful, hypocritical whingers. The fact that these attacks are occurring is bad; no doubt some of them are racially motivated. But the behaviour of the new Indian community in Australia and the Indian media in general have contributed to make it worse than it should be.

    Brian, Melbourne

    Australia is one of the most culturally accepting nations in the world; most Eastern cultures are either religiously intolerant, class-intolerant or racially intolerant. One of my best friends is Indian and I’ve also had an Indian girlfriend. Do Indians ever think how insulting it is to the millions of Australians who have foreign friends or who accept and work with foreigners every day?

    Matt Frost, Australia

    Having lived in Australia and now in the US, I find some fundamental differences in the life experiences in the two countries. Australia is a monoculture of the Anglo-Saxon heritage, and they traditionally see themselves as the only rightful “Australians” and everyone else as Chinese or Greeks or Arabs. There is a high tolerance of violence in Australia; the judges are liberal, appointed for life, and have more sympathy for the criminal than the victim. Punishments are mild and there is thus no deterrence. The police are an all-white force, few in number, and generally ineffective. The result is that the streets in many parts of Melbourne’s suburbs are a no-go zone at night. Having said that, there is definitely a glass ceiling for non-Anglos in Australia. The White Australia policy was removed by executive order and there never was a referendum or public discussion on it and a section of the Australian white population never accepted its removal.

    Ram, Minneapolis

    The fight against racism in Australia is as long as the history of Australia itself. When Australia was founded around 1788, people were worried about Catholic Irish immigrants. During the Gold Rush, it was the Chinese. Post-World War-II, it was the Greeks and Italians; after the Vietnam war, the Vietnamese. More recently, it has been the Lebanese and now it’s Indians. Each one of these backlashes was ultimately defeated by the tolerance and goodwill of the majority. It will be so again this time.

    Rupert, Melbourne

    A similar thing happened in New Jersey in the ’80s when gangs of youth calling themselves dot-busters attacked people of Indian origin wearing bindis on their foreheads. When a minority population becomes visible, people at society’s fringes feel threatened, since it is their livelihood they perceive to be under attack. The NJ phenomenon died down and Indians have continued to be its largest immigrant population. I suspect Victoria too will see a similar evolution.

    Sriram, Acton, US

    Are Indians really the focus? Or are they targets of convenience for offenders with many other problems on their minds? I read Outlook whenever I am in India and rarely see anything about Australia. It grieves me that we appear in your pages this way. There is a more positive side to the place. When these tragic attacks stop, you may want to do another story on the Indians who are quietly making their way in so many places in Australia and who are, just as previous waves of immigrants have done, redefining this country for the better.

    R.F.I. Smith, Melbourne

    Quoting people like Van Rudd, who is a lovely guy, but who also wants to make a singular point (that Australia is racist, whether the facts support it or not), or Australia First and One Nation members who are derided and ridiculed for being the ill-informed, out-of-touch, extreme dimwits and who never get a public voice because of their ridiculousness is not good journalism. I wish you could all come to Sunshine and see everyday life here, the friendliness, the community, the smiles that everyone shares, and not just read about the violence.

    Daniel, Footscray

    The White Australia policy officially ended only in the late ’60s. There is a strong element of racism in a significant minority of the Oz population and for the Aussies to deny it is to bury their collective heads in the sand. How can you expect them to solve the issue when they do not even acknowledge it? The response so far is merely spin from all politicians and the media. Also, some of the bashings on Indians were carried out by Lebanese Muslims but the media here is trying to be politically correct by not stating this fact, lest they offend the Muslim population.

    Rama, Sydney

    The associated problem with these assaults is the spineless politicians. Labour politicians dare not speak up and identify the perpetrators because the latter are constituents, by and large, of Labour electorates. And the politicians don’t want to upset their constituents by labelling them as violent racist thugs. They dare not disturb the present rotten social order in this country by prosecuting and punishing the white trash, who’re given everything in terms of education, healthcare and social security payments, yet feel threatened by others.

    Mustafa Ahmet, Melbourne

    Mainstream media likes to portray racism as white extremism, but the truth is the perpetrators of these crimes are other ethnic minorities. Most street violence in Melbourne is committed by Asians, mostly Thai and Vietnamese organised crime gangs and to a lesser degree West Asian street gangs.

    Neil, Melbourne

    Your cover story is informative but does not analyse why almost all the attacks are happening in Victoria, and almost none in the other five states.

    Amit Raha, on e-mail

    I’m concerned that crime in Melbourne is higher than I’d like. The best thing our government could do is to ensure that Indian students who come here have adequate financial resources so that they don’t take risky night jobs and live in rough suburbs away from the campus and can afford a car instead of catching public transport late at night.

    Tony, Melbourne

    I’ve lived in Melbourne for many years, and on most days it is not unusual to read of several murders, and attacks on people, most of them not Indians. Like most large cities around the world, there are areas which are safer than others. I personally feel that in most cases, Indians have been seen by some of our ‘low life’ as easy targets to rob.

    Chris Dollman, Victoria

    Perhaps the Indian consulates in Australia should look at the example of the government of the People’s Republic of China. After a couple of attacks on mainland Chinese students in inner-city Sydney, the Chinese consulate and the New South Wales Police quietly joined forces to educate the Chinese students about personal safety in these poor suburbs. The crimes were solved (not carried out by Anglo-Celtics by the way) and the number of attacks dropped immediately.

    Ian, Sydney

    I have a confession, I am Australian. Something I’ll find it hard to admit next time I’m in India, not because I’m ashamed to be one, but because I fear the reprisal I might be met with for such a disclosure. I have another confession to make: Australia does have a history of institutionalised racism. However, this has gradually been broken down and some of our past policies still shame many of us. There is still an element of racism in Australia today; there is increasing violence on the streets of Melbourne, and some of that violence is racially motivated. However, publishing a magazine with ‘Why Aussies Hate Us’ across the cover is irresponsible. It is akin to an Australian magazine carrying a cover declaring ‘Why Indian Men Make Indecent Advances Towards Women’. To publish such a statement would be extremely over-generalised as the perpetrators of such acts are in a minority. I wouldn’t normally notice the difference in appearances of different individuals, but when you label me as racist, perhaps I’ll begin to notice the difference between myself and my accusers. I might not alter my behaviour towards them, but the disaffected youth just might. Also, a little inward reflection on all sides would not be too amiss. Frankly, the most confronting racism I’ve seen in Australia is between the north and the south Indians, each suggesting the other as less civilised and poorer educated. All this apart, in India I have many friends who act as my support network there, warning me about places and the sort of behaviour to avoid. It saddens me that new arrivals in Australia stick with people from their own town or village and don’t reach out to locals to build a support network. Were efforts on both sides to be made, you might find a decrease in attacks.

    Rebecca Reeves, Melbourne

    I’m 61, retired and would like to comment on your story. Australians do not hate any Indian people. As you may recall, India has fought alongside Australian and British troops in various wars. I’ve found Indian students to be very polite, respectful of our laws, environment and, of course, our citizens. This is reciprocated by all us, with the exception of a very, very small minority. Those people who have offended Indians are criminals and will be punished. We are not a racist country as you portray, we do have issues with aboriginals but many government agencies work daily and tirelessly to improve their conditions and many, many millions of dollars are provided each year to these agencies to do their vital work. This is to convey a message of goodwill towards the people of India from an old Australian.

    Steve Squires, Perth

    If the Indian media has to blame someone, it shouldn’t be the ordinary Australian, who’s basically a good and decent person just like the ordinary Indian. It should blame the federal government’s ill-conceived and “smart-arsed” scheme under which it thought it could fill the country’s skill gap at no cost through a migration and skill-training programme effectively financed by India. They have been aware of the problem this wrought but did not do enough. Now that the Indian media’s blown the lid, they don’t know what to do. They see the problem and the damage to a bilateral relationship that Canberra sees as becoming as important as the ones with the US and China. What is the solution now? The federal government needs to accept that it dropped the ball three decades ago and focus on repairing the damage to Australian society wrought by three decades of neo-liberalism and in particular provide opportunities for the underclass in rural and urban Australia. That done, the country will be better able to absorb immigration.

    E.A. MacIntyre, Sydney

    ‘Why Aussies Hate Us’, screams your headline. Well, 99.9% of Australians are too busy going about their daily lives to have time for such negative pastimes. I deplore any attacks on students studying here but the more hysterical the reaction from India and the more publicity it generates, the more it’ll encourage copycat crimes.

    Ray, Sydney

    I’ve worked with Indians in Melbourne and found them to be racist against Australia and Australians in general. They give the impression that they are better and as a race far superior. Racism goes both ways. Indians need to look at the way they act too.

    Vincent, Brisbane

    Now that we’ve had such a strong campaign against Australia, let’s see the case against Indians here. One guy pulls an insurance scam, lights his own car and blames white people. Figures show that one-third of the people applying for student visas are presenting fake documents. Indian students everyday in every city are breaching their 20-hour-a-week work visa conditions. They’re not paying on public transport and harassing women.

    Will, Sydney

    Australia is mainly a non-racist country. My only clue to some racism towards Indians is since the telco companies moved the call centres offshore to India. We’re bombarded with calls and obvious Indian accents. Stop the call centres and you may halt some of the ill will.

    Linda Dom, Kiata

    When my wife and I were in India, we feared for our safety MANY times but we don’t tell all and sundry that Indians are racist. This is sloppy, muck-raking journalism....

    Andy Scobie, Melbourne

    I wonder if the Indian media considers the irony of this type of reporting. Just see some of the bigoted, prejudiced, ill-informed comments from both Australians and Indians. I suspect at least some of the attacks on Indians here have stemmed, at least in part, from the sensationalist media coverage.

    Stephen Alexander, Melbourne

    My mother, who migrated from Malta with her siblings just after the World War-II, spoke and understood English, but would sometimes converse in Maltese in public. English-speaking Australians would often comment, “Why don’t they learn to speak English or go back to where they came from?” My mother and her siblings would shock them with a response in English. Migrants from Mediterranean Europe were labelled derogatorily as ‘Wogs’ or ‘Dagos’. When European migration eased and was surpassed with migration from Southeast Asia, they were given labels I believe are too offensive to repeat in print. Now, sadly, it is not only Indian students who are victims of violence in Melbourne. This is a problem the Victorian government has to grapple with and overcome.

    Greg, Melbourne

    Modern-day political correctness dictates that what you should think is more important than what you actually DO think. People actually like living around people of the same ethnicity as themselves. A Harvard study recently concluded that racially diverse areas are actually less civically active and prone to people distrusting each other. Sure, the vast majority of Australians would never violently attack immigrants, however pretty much everyone I know has said something derogatory about other ethnicities which they wouldn’t dare say in public. But labelling Australia as racist is pretty stupid, as pretty much every country which has experienced an influx of foreigners who find it difficult to adapt finds itself laden with tension.

    Rob, Melbourne

    I came to Australia not as a student but a skilled migrant and have been here for about eight years now. Since about 2005 I have noticed an increase in the racism and xenophobia in Sydney. I don’t know what happened (Howard’s children came of age?). It used to be subtle, but just in the last year I’ve had a beer bottle thrown at me and told to ‘go f***ing home’; have been shouted at while driving, been called a ‘black c**t’ as I was crossing the street. Then there’s all the subtle racism—the condescension and the poor service, the ‘bag check’. I’m moving to the US now. I feel sad leaving; I own a beautiful house that I’ll miss, and I can’t imagine what my weekends will be like without my friends. But I just don’t feel safe living here anymore.

    Rahul, Sydney

    It’s pretty hard to reverse attitudes spawned by more than half-a-century of a White Australia policy in just two generations. ‘White Australia’ was the most overtly racist policy in the world after apartheid; the Australian government overturned it just in time to escape the kind of censure South Africa had to endure. One of my HR managers once went to Australia and was told at a pub that ‘his type’ were not allowed in. When he asked what ‘his type’ meant, the guy pointed to his skin and said ‘this type’.

    Shubhang, New Delhi

    I am a 55-year-old Australian teacher who for 31 years has worked hard to counter historical racism. I found the previous Howard government seemingly wanting to ‘dumb down’ Australia, but not so with our current Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard. Neither I nor any of my friends have an ounce of anti-Indian feeling. Attacking true friends is no way to go.

    Kerry Wright, on e-mail

    I’m Australian born and bred, had a private education, am in a professional job, and live in a good part of town. I’m connected to India by my grandmom. I believe Indians have been targeted. Like in any country anywhere, with any easily identifiable minority, like Indians here, there are bad elements in society—namely racists, extremists, crazy right-wing politicos, people who’re angry they are out of work and looking for someone to blame. But not me... And not millions of other Australians.

    Andrew, Melbourne

    Do people in India actually read this magazine? Or are we talking to just ourselves and a bunch of Indians living outside of the country?

    David, Melbourne

    Next I’ll go and interview a leader of a right-wing Hindu party and proclaim his views as those of mainstream India. How accommodating would you be of that?

    Jason, Sydney

    Why do Indians want to go to Australia? Because they know even idiotic, unskilled, beer-swilling labourers can afford a two-storey house and a Land Cruiser.

    Pratyush, Melbourne

    Though there are more chances of being hit by Haley’s comet, I’d like to see what would happen if 1,00,000 Australians landed up in Mumbai and started taking the local jobs.

    Colonel, Brighton Beach, Australia

    I’m offended that Outlook groups Indians in Australia as either poor students or rich migrants. What about hard-working professional Indians who do not necessarily live in a posh suburb in Melbourne?

    Sumera, Melbourne

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